Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Man and His Men and His Music

Guy Gold and His Geldings recorded 17 long-playing albums between 1957 and 1976. Not one of them reached higher than No. 278 on the Billboard charts, and only four of the records were actually released in America. Still, the group's legend remains intact, largely because there are so many unanswered questions. And questions no one wants to ask.

For most of its career, the Geldings were studio-bound, supplying the background "ooohs" and "aaahs" favored by the more popular singers of the day. In a sad irony, the Geldings were also providing the signature air-checks and audio logos for a plethora of AM radio stations — the same stations that refused to play Gelding records.

Guy Gold (born Chaim Goldberg) began as an itinerant music arranger, selling charts in after-hours jam joints in the twilight of the big band era. After unloading a pile of scribble-filled sheet music to Kay Kaiser's cousin, Guy celebrated by stumbling into the nearest bar. There his ears were accosted by a pair of Irish ruffians drunkenly manhandling "Ave Maria." Despite the outrage, Guy heard potential in the two and immediately offered Gary O'Doul and Grant McHiney a contract.

Rehearsing as a trio, Guy's quivering alto melded shamelessly with Gary's rambunctious tenor and Grant's stern baritone. But something was missing. The sound Guy heard in his head was not playing back over the studio speakers. Fortunately, the answer would soon arrive.

While spending time in an airport bathroom, Guy was stunned to hear high angelic moans coming from the next stall. The unearthly soprano belonged to 17-year-old Gil Kitsoulis, on the run from truant officers and his disapproving immigrant parents. After washing up, Gil would become the fourth Gelding.

At first, success seemed assured. Mitch Miller hired the boys to record all of the songs that his major artists refused. Soon, every second-hand tune not good enough for Buddy Grecco was getting the signature Geldings treatment.

But Guy was a strict taskmaster, both musically and personally. There were harsh fines for untucked shirt-tails and mis-combed hair. The Geldings were to be in bed by 9 each evening — and Guy was there to tuck them in! The pressure of churning out one non-hit after another was taking a toll. Many a rehearsal ended in tears. In fact, most of them did.

In 1963, Guy sought to keep peace in the group by begrudgingly producing a solo album for Grant. But the sales potential of Gelded No More and its first single, "A Quiet Kind of Love," was eclipsed by Grant's arrest at Sal Mineo's beach house.

The men recovered the only way they knew how — in song. "Secret Love" and "Not the Marrying Kind" kept the gossip mags happy, if not the accountants. On the road constantly, but with little support from the record company, the four men usually had to share one hotel room — often one bed. Still, the plucky Mr. Gold would call these the happiest days of his life.

1966 found Guy and his good friend Roddy McDowell attending an LSD party at Carey Grant's beach house. That experience led to the recording of "Love Is a State of Mind," the Geldings first, but not last, brush with psychedelia. Shortly thereafter, the group was featured on the television special, Got A Lot of Geldings, where their cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" showcased the Gelding's solid commitment to social justice, at least in a musical context.

As the '70s dawned, Guy's experimentation with Eastern mysticism and intense bodybuilding influenced his striking arrangement of "Gypsies Tramps & Thieves," which he offered as an attempt to bridge the generation gap. But after premiering the song on the 1972 summer replacement series, A Time for Geldings, the generations remained firmly apart.

Still, Guy kept reaching out to the kids. "Good Day Sunshine" was the group's biggest hit (in Japan), though an enraged Paul McCartney reputedly threatened to hire hit-men to stop its release.

Early in 1975, in a move that shocked that part of show business that was paying attention, Guy fired all of the Geldings, replacing them with younger, slimmer, more compliant men. This was The New Geldings, and though the names on the album covers remained the same, nobody was fooled. Guy attempted to "cash in" on the rock-n-roll fad by recording a rock opera with his new outfit. The resulting double-album would have been the most expensive record ever released had the studio not immediately canceled the contract and bulk-erased everything — recouping its costs by using the tapes to record Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy."

In 1976, America celebrated its bicentennial to the news that former Gelding Gary had been arrested at Billy Preston's beach house.

As Guy's stage efforts were failing, so too was his personal life. Guy's bills for Grecian Formula were skyrocketing, and he was behind on alimony from his six failed marriages. He was also burdened by royalty lawsuits from Gary and Grant, and the bitter memory of Gil's suicide. Guy faced his troubles as he had always done: he ran away. And he remains on the loose to this day. If he's still alive. Authorities ask that anyone with information relating to the capture and return of Mr. Gold should contact America's Most Wanted.

Finally, included in this compilation is the anthem "Stupid Generation," by Guy Gold Junior & the Raging Hardons. The dismal product of his father's tragic fourth marriage, the younger Gelding dedicated his short life and career to destroying all that his father had built. As with everything else involving Guy Gold, it was a pitiful failure.

Liner notes by Ralph J. Gleason